2 minute read

Rather than cut and paste, here's a link to a quick article explaining the idea. Read it and then read on...

How on earth did we ever come up with this idea?  Well, it happened at a low moment.  Reid Tingley, Darren Southwell, and myself were camping our way across the 400km strip of country between Port Hedland and Broome.  We'd been looking at the country and talking to people about the feasibility of setting up a waterless barrier to stop toads getting to the Pilbara.  There had been highs ("it will work!") and lows (but not at this exact place because [insert issue x]").  Between talking to people, we just camped at random places along a very quiet stretch of highway.

We had had a bad few hours for some reason or another.  It was dark, we had tumbled out of the car and were sitting in the sand amongst the saltbush near a bore somewhere on Anna Plains Station.  We were too tired (and probably too filthy) to make dinner so were just sitting around the fire drinking cask wine instead.  We were lamenting the fact that the barrier we needed would have to be so wide.  I pointed out that it only needed to be so wide because it had to stop these crazy invasion front toads with their insane tendency to disperse huge distances; if only we were trying to stop their brethren in QLD that are much more modest dispersers.  And then, of course, the idea of translocating QLD toads to the nearside of the barrier---the genetic backburn---appeared, fully formed.  Ridiculously obvious in hindsight, but a sufficiently audacious idea that we almost had to step on it before we saw it.

So there's my little allegory about the trials and tribulations of research and how exciting ideas can come from seemingly intractable problems.  The story also speaks, I think, to the value of open discussion and friendly banter.  Sometimes the vagaries of group conversation take you places you may not have gone otherwise.

Of course not everyone needs company and diversion to hit upon good ideas.  Some people don't subconsciously hide from audacious ideas.  A few days later we held a workshop in Broome.  Rick Shine was there, and Reid was telling him that it was tricky to find a 100km stretch of country that was perfect.  Rick proceeded to suggest to Reid that the problem was that we were trying to stop the invasion front toads.  Why didn't we consider bringing some QLD toads over?

At least we knew it was an idea whose time had come.